Polenta alla Spianatora - polenta eaten straight off the table
From my new book The Extraordinary Cookbook
This recipe is an outrage to modern manners, a regression to an age before tableware and a shocking mess to boot. All of which makes it liberating, sexy and lots of fun. There’s an extraordinary frisson of excitement and disbelief amongst your guests when you spread the polenta straight onto the table, then drop your ragu into the middle and hand the forks around.
Of course, if your guests think that it’s all a bit déclassé, you can inform them that this ancient serving method is common in many regions of Italy where the locals think that eating from plates is for sissies. You can even buy a dedicated spianatora – a large wooden board that sits on the table.
If you’re cooking for kids, you won’t need to make excuses: they’ll be beside themselves with excitement and the sheer naughtiness of it all!
Put a wide, thick-bottomed pan or casserole on a medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the sausagemeat, spread it out across the base of the pan and fry it without stirring for about 15 minutes until it begins to brown on one side. Break it up with a wooden spoon, remove and set aside. Pour off any excess fat (keep as much as you can bear because it’s full of flavour).
Turn the heat down to low, add the rest of the olive oil, the onion and fennel (or celery) and fry gently for about 15-20 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and fry for another five minutes. Turn the heat up to medium and add the glass of red wine and let it bubble for a minute, then add the tomatoes, sugar and cooked sausagemeat and turn the heat down to simmer gently for another 20 minutes. Test for seasoning and mix in the basil leaves. NB All this can be done the day before and reheated.
If you use quick polenta, follow the instructions on the packet, adding the Parmesan cheese at the end. For normal polenta, bring the water and salt almost to a boil (it can go lumpy if you add it to boiling water) and add the polenta. Simmer gently for about 30 mins until it has a creamy mashed potato consistency. Add most of the grated Parmesan and stir it in.
Clean your table (or large chopping board). Spread the polenta onto the table/board in two bowl-shaped portions (so that everyone can reach it) and spoon the ragu into the middle. Grate a little extra of the Parmesan on top and get stuck in.
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|Serving Size: 1 Serving (444g)|
|Recipe Makes: 8 Servings|
|Calories from Fat: 197 (36%)|
|Amt Per Serving||% DV|
|Total Fat 21.9g||29 %|
|Saturated Fat 6.2g||31 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 12g|
|Polyunsanturated Fat 1.8g|
|Cholesterol 21.8mg||7 %|
|Sodium 634.1mg||22 %|
|Potassium 588.1mg||15 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 65.3g||19 %|
|Dietary Fiber 7.1g||28 %|
|Sugars, other 58.2g|
|Protein 17.2g||25 %|
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Calories per serving: 549
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